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Posted May 20, 2008 by publisher in Cuban American Politics

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Miami Herald

Here is the speech Sen. John McCain delivered Tuesday at the Sheraton Miami Mart. A copy was provided to the media by his campaign.

Today, on Cuba’s Independence Day, we have occasion to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and deep-rooted traditions of the Cuban people. Cuban Americans, many of whom have ascended to the heights of business, government, and the arts, have enriched and enlivened our country. In every field, and in states across America, they bring to our communities their custom of hard work and personal initiative. And for many of these patriotic individuals, while their lives and work are here in the United States, a bit of Cuba will always endure in their hearts.

So must it be for all Americans who cherish those freedoms we so often take for granted at home. For today is not a cause for celebration alone. Those inspired freedom fighters who secured Cuba’s independence over 100 years ago could hardly know that their descendants would be engaged in a struggle for freedom and democracy a century later. And yet today, the Cuban people continue to live under tyranny, and their struggle goes on.

It is not a fruitless struggle, not by any means. One day, America will again have warm relations with a Cuban government that represents the sovereign will of its people, one that respects their fundamental human and political rights. One day, Cuba will be an important ally in advancing democracy throughout our hemisphere. Make no mistake: Cuba is destined to be free.

Today, as so many of you know too well, the situation is very different. Fidel Castro has passed the titles of power to his brother in a fashion suited more for a personal fiefdom than to a government purporting to represent that proud and dynamic people. A few recent news articles have labeled as ‘‘reforms’’ the smattering of small changes that have taken place since Raul Castro has formally taken charge. Such characterizations must sound quite cynical to the political prisoners that fill Cuban jails, to the millions who suffer under poverty and repression, and to all those who wish to choose their leaders, not suffer under them. The Castro regime enforces strict limits against freedom of expression, of association, of assembly, of movement, of speech. Last year, as many as 5,000 citizens served sentences for the vague crime of ``dangerousness.’‘

Yet tyranny will not forever endure, and as President, I will not passively await the day when the Cuban people enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy. It is in our national interest to support their aspirations and oppose those of the Castro regime, one that harbors fugitives from U.S. justice, expresses unrelenting hostility to America, and shoots down unarmed civilian aircraft. I wish the other presidential candidates felt similarly. Just a few years ago, Senator Obama had a very clear view on Cuba. When asked in a questionnaire about his policy toward Cuba, he answered: ‘‘I believe that normalization of relations with Cuba would help the oppressed and poverty-stricken Cuban people while setting the stage for a more democratic government once Castro inevitably leaves the scene.’’ Now Senator Obama has shifted positions and says he only favors easing the embargo, not lifting it. He also wants to sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro. These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba’s dictators—there is no need to undertake fundamental reforms, they can simply wait for a unilateral change in US policy. I believe we should give hope to the Cuban people, not to the Castro regime. My administration will press the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to legalize all political parties, labor unions, and free media, and to schedule internationally monitored elections. The embargo must stay in place until these basic elements of democratic society are met.

Maintaining the embargo is, however, just one element of a broader approach my administration would make to the people of Cuba. I would provide more material assistance and moral support to the courageous human rights activists who bravely defy the regime every day, and increase Radio and TV Marti and other means to communicate directly with the Cuban people. My Justice Department would vigorously prosecute Cuban officials implicated in the murder of Americans, drug trafficking, and other crimes. While our Cuba policy will not always be in accord with that of our hemispheric and European partners, my administration will begin an active dialogue with them to develop a plan for post-Castro Cuba, a plan that will spark rapid change and a new awakening in that country. The Cuban people have waited long enough.

As we work with our hemispheric partners, we must be clear about the kind of leadership America seeks to provide. For decades, in Republican and Democratic administrations alike, the United States has treated Latin America as a junior partner rather than as a neighbor, like a little brother rather than as an equal. As a resident of a state that borders Mexico, I am acutely aware of the extraordinary contributions that our neighbors make to the United States—from trade to culture to a commitment to democracy and human rights. Latin America today is increasingly vital to the fortunes of the United States, and Americans north and south share a common geography and a common destiny. It is time to embrace this destiny for the benefit of all our peoples.

We have made progress toward this vision by expanding the benefits of free commerce, through NAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and our free trade agreements with Peru and Chile. But the progress has stalled; our long-standing bipartisan commitment to hemispheric prosperity is crumbling. We see this most vividly in Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s opposition to the free trade agreement with Colombia. The failure of the Congress to take up and approve this agreement is a reminder why 80 percent of Americans think we are on the wrong track. Congress can find time to pass a pork-filled farm bill, but it cannot stir itself to support a key ally and further American prosperity.

The Colombia FTA would benefit American workers and consumers—the U.S. International Trade Administration estimates that over $1 billion in tariffs have been imposed on U.S. exports to Colombia since the FTA was signed, tariffs that would be eliminated once the agreement takes effect. Here in Florida, trade has created new markets for the Sunshine State’s world-class produce, manufactured goods, and professional services. Florida’s exports to Canada and Mexico rose by some 208 percent since NAFTA was enacted, and its exports to Chile grew 99 percent in the first four years of its free trade agreement. Colombia today stands as Florida’s fifth largest export market—Florida exported $2.1 billion worth of goods there last year—and now the Colombians are offering to drop their barriers to American goods. Yet Senators Obama and Clinton oppose the agreement, wishing to retreat behind protectionist walls an d undermine a key hemispheric ally.

The strategic implications of rejecting this agreement are profound. Colombia is a beacon of hope in a region where the Castro brothers, Hugo Chavez, and others are actively seeking to thwart economic progress and democracy. Delaying approval of the Colombian Free Trade Agreement will not create one American job or start one American business, but it will divide us from our Colombian partners at a time when they are battling the FARC terrorists and their allied drug cartels. It will undercut America’s standing with our allies in a critical region and across the world, at a moment when rebuilding these relationships has never been more important. It will set back the goal of deepening relations with our neighbors to the south and enhancing the stability, peace, and prosperity of our hemisphere.

If I am elected president, the United States will not bow to the special interests seeking to block progress. Instead, we will forge a new policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean Basin, one founded on peace and security, shared prosperity, democracy and freedom, and mutual respect. We will work to prevent Venezuela and Bolivia from taking the same road to failure Castro has paved for Cuba, and we will broaden and strengthen ties with key states like Brazil, Peru, and Chile. We will make clear to all countries in the region that if they share our values of freedom and openness, they can count on us as a friend. We will not abandon our partners to demagogues, drug lords, and despair, but expand the benefits of security, trade and prosperity to all.

My vision embodies the interests and the values of America and seeks the betterment of all people, everywhere in our hemisphere. And it is a vision that includes the people of Cuba.

Courageous men found their calling at the beginning of the last century in winning for Cuba its independence. And those brave men and women who stand up for their rights today will, one day soon, win for Cuba its freedom. When they do, they will enjoy not only the fruits of their own liberation, but also the firm and fast friendship of all Americans who have stood with them throughout the years of struggle. On this Cuban Independence Day, let us take a moment to pray that Cubans everywhere can one day soon enjoy the liberty for which their forefathers fought.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on May 20, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Same old crap. This speech could have been (and probably was) given at any US Presidential campaign since the 1960s.

    A vote for McCain is a vote to re-elect George Bush.


    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on May 21, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    Anyone who is considering voting for McCain should think hard about what direction he will be taking us.  The clear answer is that he’s going to be stubbornly going down the same road.  It’s pretty depressing really.  On the other hand, if I was a democratic strategist, I would be licking my chops, preparing to make the easy contrast between the old, out of touch cold warrior McCain and the young energetic Obama who plans to take us into a new era.
    To me there is no better example of how the candidates differ than how they approach the Cuba issue.  If nothing else, the dems will try to portray McCain as a flip flopper since he supported some anti-embargo legislation in the past.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on May 21, 2008 by MiamiCuban

    McCain is old and senile and, above all, dangerous.  I don’t think he really has any views of his own—-they all seem to be soundbites coming from whomever is surrounding him at the moment.  And it’s clear he had a few mojitos in chummy surroundings with the Balart Brothers prior to his speech.  So far everything he has said with respect to Cuba, Iraq, and Latin America will definitely lead to more instability in the world, not less.  I just hope American voters are smarter this time around.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on May 21, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    thing on cnn website about bush announcing that american cubans can now send cell phones to cubans .....

    Bush allowing Americans to send mobile phones to family members in Cuba
    Posted: 10:49 AM ET
    WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States will allow Americans to send mobile phones to relatives in Cuba under a change in policy that President Bush announced Wednesday.

    He is making the change “since (President) Raul (Castro) is allowing Cubans to own mobile phones for the first time,” Bush said. “If he is serious about his so-called reforms, he will allow these phones to reach the Cuban people.”

    Bush was marking for the first time what the White House calls a Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People, which he said he hopes will be an annual event

    lets see obama top such a major shift in the embargo .....

  5. Follow up post #5 added on May 21, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    I don’t quite get this.
    Americans have been sending cell phones.  The challenge is to get them “unblocked”, no?

  6. Follow up post #6 added on May 21, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    OK I guess Americans weren’t allowed to send cell phones in the past and Cubans weren’t allowed to send them.  It just seems like kind of an odd “policy change”, but I guess both sides are going with small changes.  I wonder what the Cuban government’s reaction will be…

  7. Follow up post #7 added on May 22, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    probably to slap a high duty on them so they end up being more expensive than if Cubans bought theirs through Cubacell

  8. Follow up post #8 added on May 22, 2008 by abh

    haha i like how manfredz thinks this really does have the feel of the classic US/Cuba political game playing.  Pretty funny really.  What I meant to say in my last post was that I know people have brought cells down to cuba in the past, i remember the difficult part being that you had to “desbloquear” them.  I always thought it was a funny metaphor for the embargo, but anyways I guess the point is that Bush wants to push cells in there and see how the cuban government acts.  typical asshole move by the way.  I think I’m gonna have to go out at some point and buy one of those bumper stickers that says “January 19 2009” or whatever the date of the start of the next administration is.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on May 22, 2008 by arteest with 103 total posts

    Well, it really IS interesting considering that the US uses phones with 850 and 1900 frequencies and Cuba currently uses 900 and, in the future, 1800. Getting a phone unlocked might be the least of the problems. I had a Motorola and a Siemans to send to friends and could only send the Siemans.

  10. Follow up post #10 added on May 22, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    Interesting.  See now this is the havana journal at it’s inside information best

  11. Follow up post #11 added on May 22, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    i know some canadians and europeans have in the past taken unlocked cell phones to special friends.  Or have cone to Cubacel to sign a contract for a cuban friend because it wasnt possible for “normal”  Cubans to own cells, although it was another one of those things that was tolerated because cubans make no secret to hide their cellphones.
    And now enters teh idea of sending an American cellphone to a Cuban.
    Think now that the ground rules have changed, think the easiest way for someone to get a cellphone to a Cuban is to give him the CUC.
    Btw, Cuba does not allow GPS devices to be brought in (without special licence) and that includes cellphones with GPS - I know in jan when I went down, for teh first time I was asked by Aduana if my cell had GPS.  I answered no, and was on my way - they didnt take a close look at phone at all.

  12. Follow up post #12 added on May 22, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    Right, foreigners could sign for a cell and Cubans could use it.  Now Cubans themselves can buy them.  I’d like to know what the going rate is on the street for cubacell phones vs. whatever else is available…

  13. Follow up post #13 added on May 22, 2008 by bernie with 199 total posts

    Go to http://www.mercola.com
    click on no.4 whats more important your cell phone or your brain?????

    Since Kennedy got a brain tumor, Bush has seen a way by allowing cell phones be sent to Cuba, to make the Cuban brain dead?????

    About: mccain who, would like a president that smells like urine??????

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